Consultation on sports hub at Oast Park Golf Course off Castle Way, for Larkfield and New Hythe FC, and 100 homes near Snodland gets underway

The chairman of a grassroots football club says it cannot “can’t survive” without a new training and 3G facility, after he had to cancel 18 matches due to waterlogged pitches.

The urgency follows the recent sale of Cobdown Sports Ground in Ditton, with many teams without training grounds and “desperate” to find somewhere to play.

A CGI illustrating how the new Oast Park Sports Hub might look. Image: Hollaway Studio
A CGI illustrating how the new Oast Park Sports Hub might look. Image: Hollaway Studio

Developer Obee Estates has launched a public consultation ahead of submitting a planning application for a new purpose-built community sports hub at the Oast Park Golf Course off Castle Way just outside Snodland.

The project, which has been in the pipeline for the past 15 months, would see Larkfield and New Hythe FC relocate to the facility.

If the plans go ahead, the golf club, which closed in 2017, would be transformed into a 4,500sq ft clubhouse and two floodlit 3G pitches for year-round matches and training.

John Michel, Chairman of Larkfield and New Hythe Football Club, said: “We are looking to move from our current stadium because we can’t survive staying here anymore.

Thomas Obee, of Obee Estates, said the consultation was important
Thomas Obee, of Obee Estates, said the consultation was important

“The cost of running the facility has shot up in the last three years and we basically need to move to somewhere we can have a 3G facility and rent that out and get income in.

“We are working with a developer, and they have found a new site for us which is pretty close and includes a brand new stadium, 3G training pitch, brand new clubhouse facilities and car parking – it’s going to be a really exciting transformation.”

The chairman, who has been in his current role for 25 years, says he had to cancel 18 games because of the weather last season and says he’s “never had this many cancellations” before.

While the plans are in the consultation stage, John is eager to speed-up the process following the news that K Sports Cobdown had sold on June 17.

“We’ve got nowhere to train right now for these teams, it’s a massive problem,” he added.

Likewise, Larkfield Football Club chairman, Russell Jeffery, says planning permission needs to be granted as soon as possible.

He said: “If we can’t get winter training sorted out within the next two years, the club which has been around since 1964 – is going to struggle big time.

“We need as much support from everyone for this new project to try and get it through earlier.”

If the scheme goes ahead, 50 new affordable homes will be created on the current site of Larkfield and New Hythe Football Club.

The plan for two-storey homes will incorporate a landscaped space fronting the road, next to Larkfield Playing Fields.

Plans for new purpose-built community sports hub at the Oast Park Golf Course off Castle Way just outside Snodland. Photo: Hollaway Studio
Plans for new purpose-built community sports hub at the Oast Park Golf Course off Castle Way just outside Snodland. Photo: Hollaway Studio

However, not all residents are in support.

Lee Jones, 56, of Chaucer Way, Larkfield, said: “I am against it. I have lived here all my life and it’s going to cause absolute chaos for the traffic.

“The houses will be right next to us and people will be overlooking us into our gardens.

“It is a shame for all of the locals that live here.”

However, at the consultation event last Wednesday many were supportive of the plans.

Alan Young, from Larkfield, thinks the scheme is good and isn't concerned about the traffic
Alan Young, from Larkfield, thinks the scheme is good and isn't concerned about the traffic

Alan Young, 73, who lives in Larkfield, said: “I think the consultation is quite sensible - it seems like quite a good scheme which secures a reasonable amount of housing, with community benefits.

“I have no concerns – I was just interested in what it looks like, and they seem to have thought of most things and traffic disruption is minimal.”

Members of Medway Croquet Club also attended the consultation as part of their plans to look for a new venue after losing their spot at K Sports.

Secretary Eric Diston said: “This is probably too far in the future for us because immediately we’re out of a ground and we’re desperately trying to find somewhere else to play - croquet takes up quite a bit of space.”

“But I think the plans are brilliant - the neighbourhood needs a new sports hub.”

An overview how the new Oast Park sports ground could look. Image: Hollaway Studio
An overview how the new Oast Park sports ground could look. Image: Hollaway Studio

Director of Obee Estates, Thomas Obee, said he could not comment on the closure of K Sports Cobdown but speaking at the consultation he said: “With that closure there is going to be a shortage of football pitches in the area they can use and train on.

“The biggest issues which Larkfield and New Hythe Football Club have had, if you take this year, is how many matches they’ve had to cancel or postpone, simply because of the weather.

“We’ve spoken to as many people as we can get round to and I’m really pleased with the turnout and the reaction has been very positive so far – so we hope that will continue.

“We take back all of people’s feedback, both from today and also what’s being fed through online, and from that feedback we can make any amendments we think are right before we go to the next step which is obviously through to planning proposals – today’s really important to us.”

One resident, Darren Williams, said he was excited about the new structure, clubhouse and pitches but shared concerns about parking and traffic.

Darren Williams, from Larkfield, is excited for the sports hub but has concerns about parking and traffic
Darren Williams, from Larkfield, is excited for the sports hub but has concerns about parking and traffic

He said: “I’m all for the expansion of the housing around this area - I’m just concerned about the lack of parking spaces for visitors and residents, there doesn’t seem to be much space for any visitors to park.

“Their estimation of 30 cars [using the access road] in the morning with 50 houses, I would say that’s a little bit under what would probably happen.

“But, I love the new structure and the new clubhouse, the new 3G pitches, I’m a golfer – love that idea – and its making use of land that was wasted over time so it’s definitely a good move.”

Obee Estates has yet to make a formal planning application to Tonbridge and Malling council but it is understood the masterplan also includes 100 homes adjacent to the sports hub, 10 of which would be self-build plots.

Larkfield FC site masterplan for 50 affordable homes. Image: Hollaway Studio
Larkfield FC site masterplan for 50 affordable homes. Image: Hollaway Studio

John Michel added: “This is a transformational event for the club if we can make this happen and bring this to the local people it will be fantastic.

“The key thing for me is how can we make the planning faster.”

To see more planning applications and other public notices for your area, click here.

The new Oast Park Sports Hub will be just under a mile from the football club’s current ground just off New Hythe Lane.

Plans for the sports hub include a bar and restaurant and access would be off the A228.

More information about the proposals can be found here.

Larkfield and New Hythe FC was established in 1961 and has more than 30 teams, including women’s and juniors.

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